BWW Reviews: PIPPIN National Tour at Durham Performing Arts Center

Loosely based on the fictitious life of Pippin the Hunchback, this musical tells the story of the young prince Pippin, Heir to the Frankish throne, who is in search of the secret to true happiness and fulfillment. He seeks it in the glories of the battlefield, the temptations of the flesh and the intrigues of political power (after disposing of his father, King Charlemagne the Great). In the end, though, Pippin finds that happiness lies not in extraordinary endeavors, but rather in the un-extraordinary moments that happen every day.

The original Broadway production directed & choreographed by Bob Fosse debuted on October 23rd, 1972 where it would go on to win 5 Tony Awards (including Best Direction of a Musical), and a run of 1,944 performances after concluding on June 12th, 1977. This current national touring production is based on the most recent Broadway revival that debuted on April 25th, 2013. It would win 4 Tony Awards (including Best Revival of a Musical), and a run of 709 performances after concluding on January 4th, 2015.

The framing device for this production currently playing through May 17th is a circus troupe of players who tell the story Pippin created in collaboration with director Diane Paulus and Gypsy Snider. Often times, the ensemble ends up breaking the fourth wall. The end results are truly spectacular all around! From Paulus' staging; Chet Walker's choreography; Kenneth Posner's brilliant lighting designs; the colorful sets and costumes designed by Scott Pask and Dominique Lemieux respectively; and the high-flying acrobats.

The book by Roger O. Hirson very cleverly tells a story that's very relevant in today's world, something I think everyone of us could all relate to. The way Stephen Schwartz's score goes in and out of dialogue was also very smart.

In the title role of Pippin, Kyle Dean Massey who mainstream audiences may recognize from his role on ABC's Nashville gives a very sympathetic, relatable performance. It's his performance that has the audience hooked on his journey from the beginning with his signature song Corner of the Sky (in my opinion, the greatest 'I Want' song in the musical theatre canon) to end. As The Leading Player, Lisa Karlin (understudy for Sasha Allen) gives a very skillful performance; she very sings well, she dances very well; she's even funny. As Pippin's demanding father Charlemagne, John Rubinstein (who also originated the title role in the 1972 Broadway production) looks like he's having the time of his life every time he's onstage. As Pippin's convincing stepmother Fastrada, Sabrina Harper offers a sexy onstage presence. As Pippin's grandmother saucy Berthe, Adrienne Barbeau (who originated the role of Rizzo in the 1972 Broadway production of Grease) literally stops the show with her number No Time At All, even offering some audience participation. As the widow Catherine, Kristine Reese is hilarious!

It should almost be a requirement for you to see this production as it is 'Extra-Ordinary', so in the words of The Leading Player, 'Join Us!'

For more information regarding the tour, please visit: http://www.pippinthemusical.com/

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From This Author Jeffrey Karasarides

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